Her crossed arms answered her question before she spoke.
She didn’t have to speak. The look on her face. The trademark crossed arms. Her favored one hip stance. All did the speaking for her.
“It’s just been such a long week. And I really want to get to the airport,” I tried to explain. Twisting in my chair.
“But what about dinner? You have to eat, ” my grandmother said.
Leaning forward, I tried to justify my actions. “But Anna is so exhausted. I am, too. I’m so sorry. I know we promised but I want to avoid the traffic. We’ll pick up something quick on the way.”
“Do you think you’ll be back for Thanksgiving?” she asked, eyebrows raised. Hopeful.
“I’m not sure,” I said, letting my voice trail off. I knew I wouldn’t. Maybe Christmas. Maybe next spring. But I was tired of the 1200 mile journeys. I wanted a break.
“It’s OK,” my sister chimed in, “I’ll bring the kids by next week and we can have lunch.” Trying to come to my rescue. It’s little consolation. I’m the one who lives so far away.
Then we said our goodbyes. And watched her on the driveway with her arms crossed. Not smiling, yet trying not to look disappointed.
Twelve years later the image haunts me.
“You have to stop beating yourself up over this,” my sister says to me over the phone.
I shift uncomfortably. I close my eyes. “I know. But I can’t.”
“There was no way you could know she was going to die. No one knew. She was always so vibrant. Even the doctor didn’t see it coming.”
“But I should have at least had dinner with her like we promised,” my eyes watering remembering my last broken promise to her. “I never even called her. That was the last time we spoke.”
“She’s moved on and so should you.” My sister is tired of this conversation. So am I. But that image of her still haunts me. That last image.
“Do you really think she’s forgiven me?” I ask, standing up now, watching a cardinal on our birdfeeder.
“Yes. She forgave you moments after you left,” my sister sighs into the phone.
“Ok. Thanks.” Not convinced, I hang up the receiver. And walk to the window to watch the birds flit back and forth. Leaning on one hip. Brow furrowed.
And arms crossed.